How to Better Manage Your Revit (and Other) Content with UNIFI

Michael Kilkelly, author of ArchSmarter blog, reviewed the UNIFI Content Management solution.  He liked the solution so much he is now going to purchase it!  We’ve posted the article below and the link to his site can be viewed here. 

“Hey Michael, got a second?” I hear from across the office.

“Remember that window family you created?” Steve asks me. “You know, the one with all the depth parameters.”

I had made a bunch of window families over the past few months. I wracked my brain to try to remember which one he was looking for.

“You mean the one I made for the Crosstown project?” I reply. “It had a bunch of depth parameters.”

“No, the other one. I think it was after Crosstown. It had different transom types.”

“Oh, I know which one you mean. I’ll go find it.”

I dig through the office family folders looking for the .rfa file. I think I find the right one so I email it over to Steve.

“Nope, that’s not it.” he calls out. “The one I need has a transom type.”

“Hmm. . . ” I say as I try to remember the family he’s thinking of.

I spend another ten minutes digging around. I don’t see anything similar in the office library so I start looking in project folders.

“Did it have an arch top option?” I ask him.

“Maybe”, he replies.

Thirty minutes later, I find the family he’s looking for. Turns out, it was in the wrong project folder and was never added to the office library. Also, I hadn’t created it. Our colleague Lisa did. So much for Steve’s memory.

“What was I working on?” I ask myself as I get back to work, almost an hour later. Nothing like a “quick question” to set you off your game.

Sound familiar?

Managing Your Revit Content

It takes a lot of time to create Revit families. A “simple” family can take hours to create – from building the model, to adding some formulas, to testing the parameters. The benefit is that you can reuse that family in future projects. An hour spent today could save you five to ten hours over the course of the year.

But what if you can’t find those families after you create them? All that time you hoped to save is spent looking for the file. Or worse, you have to recreate it from scratch.

Building Revit content is an investment. Relying on fallible memory and a rickety folder structure isn’t the most efficient way to keep track of your valuable assets, is it?

What if you could find the exact family you’re looking for in seconds? What if you could preview it before you load it into your project file? Better yet, what if you could do this with ALL your digital files, including DWGs, images, documents, and spreadsheets?

It turns out you can, with UNIFI.

What is UNIFI?

UNIFI is a cloud-based content management system. It organizes and provides access to your digital files. It’s like a search engine for your files – but better.

UNIFI saves your content to the Amazon cloud infrastructure. Since it’s in the cloud, you can access your content from anywhere – your office (or offices), your job site, or even from home. Unlike cloud-based storage services, like Dropbox and Google Drive, UNIFI indexes and categorizes your files on upload, making them easier to find and manage.

UNIFI dashboard

Access is not limited to people inside your firm. Outside consultants can get access to your UNIFI library as well. In addition, high-quality manufacturer content is also available through UNIFI Connect. No need to build your own content when you can download it straight from the source.

How Does It Work?

The first step to organizing your content on UNIFI is to upload your files to UNIFI’s cloud server. You can do this using their desktop app or Revit add-in. Individual files, whole folders, or even all the contents from your Revit project file can be uploaded. UNIFI reads the files and extracts the important metadata, such as author, date created, and file size.

UNIFI upload content

Users can add tags to uploaded files. This is where the power of UNIFI really shines. All the Revit families from a project, for example, can get tagged with the project name. If you’re looking for a family from that project, you can search by family type and project name. Uploaded files can have any number of tags. Tags are also user-defined, giving you a lot of flexibility in their application.

Once uploaded, users can access the files in Revit through the UNIFI add-in. The interface provides access to all the various libraries, as well as manufacturer provided content.

UNIFI company library

Users can give content a rating (1 to 5 stars) as well as “favorite” content they use frequently. You can even filter your searches to only look for content you’ve marked as a favorite.

Searches can also be saved. Say you’re inserting light fixtures in a large project. Rather than recreate the search each time, you can save your search parameters and re-run the search from the UNIFI interface.

UNIFI_dialog_02

Once you’ve found the family you want, inserting it into your project is very easy. Click the item you want to insert from the UNIFI interface. UNIFI will download the .rfa file and activate the “Place Component” tool.

What’s even better, UNIFI recognizes the version of Revit you’re using. When you insert content, it downloads the correct version every time, regardless of the version that was uploaded. No more wasting time upgrading files!

It’s All About the Content

Sure, managing Revit component families is a great feature but what about all the other Revit stuff? Good news! UNIFI works with Revit system families as well.

Do you currently save your system families in a container file? This approach, while standard practice, can be problematic. You need to open each container file to see what system families are available. Container files also need to be upgraded for each new release of Revit. There’s a lot of work involved in keeping them current and up-to-date.

Fortunately, UNIFI makes container files a thing of the past. All your floor, roof, and wall types can be stored and retrieved from UNIFI. Likewise, drafting views and schedules can also be saved to your UNIFI library.

What’s more, you’re not just limited to the content in your firm’s library. Through UNIFI Connect, users can subscribe to manufacturer “channels” and download the manufacturer’s content directly from UNIFI. No need to go to their website or search online catalogs. Plus, all the content on Connect has been vetted through UNIFI’s stringent QA/QC process. Participating manufacturers include Miele, Legrand, and Lotus, among others.

And UNIFI is not only for your Revit content. New this month is multi file format support. UNIFI can manage your AutoCAD, ArchiCAD, and SketchUp files, as well as images, documents, and spreadsheets.

multi format with UNIFI

Revision Control

Remember the time when you tweaked that awesome parametric heat pump family and forgot to save a new copy? Then when someone asked for the original you had to undo all your changes? Ugh, what a waste of time.

UNIFI file revisions

That won’t happen with UNIFI. Every change to your uploaded content gets saved as a revision. You can roll back your changes at any point. Now that’s powerful!

Pricing

Sounds great, right? So, what’s this going to cost? UNIFI recently updated their pricing structure to make it affordable for small and large firms alike.

First off, you can get a free trial for one month for up to five users. After you check it out and find you can’t live without it, UNIFI costs $14 USD per month per user for up to 30 users. For firms with over 30 users, enterprise pricing is available.

For a firm with 10 Revit users, a subscription to UNIFI will cost $140 per month. I’m willing to bet those 10 users will save more than a few hours using UNIFI. If their hourly rate is $100 an hour, it will have paid for itself twice over. And that’s just one month. Over the course of a year, think how much time you’ll save having all your content right at your fingertips?

Get Started with UNIFI Today

As architects and designers, we’re skilled at creating beautiful and useful content. It’s a big part of who we are and what we do. But we’re not always so skilled at organizing that content for later use. Often times we just recreate it because it’s easier than finding a needle in a haystack of project folders. What a waste of time.

Don’t reinvent the wheel time and again because you can’t find a file. Instead, treat your content like the time-saving resource it is. UNIFI is the perfect tool for maximizing the value of your content. It makes managing your files easy and effective.Want to experience the power of UNIFI for yourself? Click here to sign up for a free trial. You can use UNIFI for 30 days with up to 5 users. Start saving time today!

Want to experience the power of UNIFI for yourself? Click here to sign up for a free trial. You can use UNIFI for 30 days with up to 5 users. Start saving time today!

Note: UNIFI sponsored this post and paid ArchSmarter a fee for reviewing their software.

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